Joan of Dark wrote earlier in the week about watching a Naptown (ladies) vs. Race City Rebels (dudes) bout. The bout turned into a rout, with the women being beat soundly. She didn’t like watching this, nor did a lot of other Naptown roller derby fans.
No one likes watching their team get blown out, that’s for sure. But is it worse when you’re watching men literally beat up on women*?
Part if the fun of women’s derby is that it’s subversive. Women aren’t supposed to be aggressive, and watching them do so on their own terms can be deeply satisfying or upsetting, depending on how you like your stereotypical gender roles. Derby fans dig it. For me, and I suppose for many others, watching men’s derby isn’t quite the same. Displays of aggression and physicality by men are everywhere in our culture, so seeing men duke it out isn’t subversive at all. It can still be fun to watch if you like sports. I do.
For me, when women play win and the women win handily, it’s fun – lady power!
If the game is close, it’s fun – good game!
If the men win handily…it’s kind of a bummer.
I have some capital-F Feelings around this issue that might be clouding my perspective. I was a tomboy as a kid, and was really competitive with boys in gym class. Apparently, I liked intimidating little boys in co-ed soccer by running up to them and staring them down, which was easily accomplished as I was always the tallest girl in my class.
The thought of failure in roller derby is tough for me, but failure against men is worse. The only time I ever tossed my helmet and threatened to stop playing is the only time I played against a men’s team.
For the record, I support men’s derby in a passive way, and have paid my own hard-earned dollars to go to a couple of games.
So, roller derby fans and skaters, let’s chat. Do you enjoy watching men vs. women? How about mixed teams? Why or why not?
*For this discussion, I’m talking about gender only. Men are players who identify as men, and women are players who identify as women for the purposes of roller derby.